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I’m not one for Johnlock. (I’m an Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes sort of girl. As Benedict Cumberbatch would say, “I like to be the dominant one.”) That said, I think the Sherlock/John Watson friendship is incredible. Here’s a short little ditty about what happens when Sherlock takes a bullet for John and John demands Sherlock make a promise he can never keep.

Promise
by Sara Dobie Bauer

I race around a back alley corner, Sherlock behind me. It’s rare that he’s behind me, but Lestrade held him back to shout a warning as I took off running after our man. The suspect may have murdered two women. He got away from us once; he will not get away again.

I feel my gun in the pocket of my coat, but I don’t take it out—not yet. Having something in my hand will only slow me down, and I like being in front for once. I can hear Sherlock behind me, the tap of his dress shoes on pavement. I’ve often wondered how the man runs with such speed in dress shoes. Then again, he does everything like a cat: jump, perch, sprint. He’s the human equivalent of a cheetah.

The sun has almost set, but my eyes are quick to adjust to dim light. I acquired quite a few things in the war, the least of which was a bullet wound. My reflexes are faster, my vision, keener. I hear things other people don’t—like the sound of fumbling footsteps ahead, for instance.

We’ve got him. He won’t shoot another woman dead. As I rush past a dumpster, only now do I pull my weapon. Best to be careful. We know the suspect is armed.

I round another corner. There is a dark shape ten feet ahead of me, frozen in place, blocked by a tall chain link fence. I move to aim, but the suspect already has me in his sights. The world slows.

In Afghanistan, I had no time to prepare for being shot. The bullet hit me in the shoulder like a heavy raindrop. There was no pain, only a dull knowledge that something was wrong. I have time now to prepare. I have time to wince at the sound of the gun going off. I have time to pull my own trigger, but I’m seconds too late. I know that.

Instead of the expected thud and ache of a bullet wound, I see black. I wonder if I’ve been killed. Is this death? No, I don’t suppose death has weight, but there is a weight against me: a heavy, long-limbed weight in a black coat. Only when I hear him moan, softly, do I realize I have Sherlock pressed against me. He slouches until my arms hold him around the chest.

“Sherlock.”

“Nice shot.”

I take steps back until I have Sherlock on the ground. He’s talking about my shot. The suspect is dead, ten feet in front of us. Sherlock’s eyes stare at the sky. His breath puffs out in labored wheezes, and this is not due to our chase. I have a horrible fear that Sherlock Holmes just took a bullet for me.

Read the rest at FanFiction.net.

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(Amazing fan art credit: sheWolf294)

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I was once thrown into the Salt River by a guy named Damian. I forgave this because he is a cool dude with good taste in movies. Then, I heard he was doing something REALLY COOL that did not involve throwing women into rivers.

Damian will be embarking on a one-year, 19,000-mile bike trip from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, all the way to the bottom of the world: Ushuaia, Argentina. He will be doing this solo ride to help raise public awareness of the benefits that regular exercise offers to those battling mental illness. He will raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, specifically their “Hearts and Minds” campaign.

As a diagnosed depressive, how could I not get behind this project? Damian already has two amazing sponsors: Caledonia Spirits and Hero Apicus Nutrition. They’ve been a huge help, but he still needs more funding to make this trip happen.

To donate, head to Damian’s GoFundMe site. For more about this super cool dude and his mission to support mental health awareness, read on …

An H and Five Ws with NAMI Advocate Damian Reusch

How did you come up with the idea for this solo bike adventure?

I wanted to undertake what I considered to be a transformative journey, one that would compare with the “Great American” adventures that used to fill novels and dime store magazines, before advancements in technology seemingly shrank the world to a more user-friendly size.

I have always felt, as the world I live in became more and more connected, a sense of increasing disconnection. I have longed for an experience that will allow me to rediscover the awe I knew as a child, the wonder and fascination I only knew from the books I read and a life I imagined. I have grown tired of living inwardly, with the incessant concern for professional and personal growth … I wanted to live outwardly for a bit, to have focus on a goal outside my personal narrative and perhaps in the process bring back some measure of connection through its fulfillment.

I decided to choose a charity that I felt a connection with and endeavor to begin a journey that people could identify with, and be excited by. People love a story, and though there are fewer today, they especially love adventure stories. I thought that would be an interesting way to try to rekindle people’s spirit of fascination with the world at large, while at the same time raise money for an important and often overlooked cause. The Pan American Highway is the world’s longest motorable road… so why not ditch the car and bike it?

What is your inspiration?

1925082_10201560427799717_1763726457_nMy greatest inspiration is the world as a whole. I remember a few years ago, I was in Austin visiting some friends. They took me to an overlook that was situated over a river next to a roadway. I imagine most people climb up there for a view of a sunset, or the rolling hills, or the slowly crawling river below … but I couldn’t take my eyes off the road and the cars driving on it.

I had been thinking a lot about the idea of a personal narrative, how we are all the stars of our own story, and how constrictive that mentality can be. I began to imagine a sort of story board, drawn like a circuit with lines extending out of each passenger. Each line led to a box, each box splintered into another possibility, and each possibility splintered to another and so on … constantly changing with each passing second, constantly evolving, fracturing, and expanding outward.

That is the world I wish to see, so I see it. An explosion of stories, intertwining and unraveling at every moment, most of it unobserved potential. My narrative became less interesting knowing all that potential was out there waiting for a catalyst to bring so much to fruition.

A trip like this will most likely not bring any measure of “traditional” success, but it will drop me in the center of that stew of unrealized story lines.

What do you hope to achieve?

I hope to have an incredible journey, to experience the world in its most raw form, to meet incredible people and for a moment experience their story. I hope to raise money for a great cause that benefits people who in their own way may feel as lost or disconnected as myself.

Where are you most excited to go?

Ushuaia, Argentina. That will mean I have completed the journey successfully.

When did you realize you had you own mental health issues?

I realized at a very young age. It manifested itself as a reaction to the profound disappointment I had in the people around me, in their inability to see the long view, the larger picture. I became frustrated at first, slowly mired in anger, then boom. I was diagnosed with what is called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. I have never been medicated. I have always found that all of my frustration can be mitigated through an active lifestyle. At times I am obsessively active; at times I struggle. But I am lucky in that I know what I need to maintain a positive balance. That is why I relate so well to the NAMI “Hearts and Minds” Campaign.

Why is mental health so important?

Throughout history, mental illness has been treated like possession or witchcraft, rather than like an illness, which is why it still carries the stigma it does today. The brain is an organ, but it is an organ we lack critical understanding of. That lack of understanding can lead to confusion and eventual disassociation rather than acceptance and healing. We are a thousand steps behind where we should be with regard to the treatment of mental illness, and we are there because of the lack of an open dialogue. The first step is to drive awareness. Mental health should be no more taboo than an infection or a genetic disorder.

I am so, so proud of Damian’s mission. It’s time we all supported him and mental health awareness. Head to GoFundMe right now and become part of the solution. Thank you!

THE F WORD
Wallace is jaded, British, and wandering through life in Toronto when he meets his best friend’s cousin, Chantry. They form an immediate connection through offbeat humor and a general distaste for small talk. They leave the party together, and Chantry gives Wallace her number only to make it quite clear that she has a BOYFRIEND named Ben.

Wallace, still recovering from his cheating ex-girlfriend, tosses Chantry’s number. Of course, a little thing like that can’t keep them apart, and they soon become best of friends. But can men and women really be just friends?

This is the set up for Elan Mastai’s brilliant screenplay, What If. The plotline is vaguely similar to my favorite romantic comedy ever, When Harry Met Sally. That said, What If in no way steals from Harry and Sally. Instead, it wends it own quirky, modern, hilarious path toward what one hopes is a happy ending for Harry Potter … er, I mean, Daniel Radcliffe.

What-If-posterLet’s face it: whenever I see Daniel Radcliffe, I see Harry Potter. That said, he successfully shook the wizard off his back in his brilliant performance as Wallace. In an interview, Radcliffe said Wallace is the character he’s played most similar to himself. If that’s true, Radcliffe’s personality is freaking adorable, and I want to have a beer with him.

Not only is his comic delivery spot on, but Radcliffe isn’t a little boy anymore. Well, I mean, he’s short, but he’s officially a man, as proven by a nude scene in which I kept thinking, “When did Harry Potter grow pecs?”

Romantic interest Chantry is played by Zoe Kazan. I’d never seen her in anything before, but now, I love her because in Chantry, she created a loveable, odd artist person who struggles between her love for long-time boyfriend Ben and her fondness for Wallace. She, too, is comic genius, but this may all be due to screenwriter Elan Mastai.

This is his first full-length romantic comedy. Well, I dub him Rom-Com Genius. The dialogue is painfully funny (and sometimes awkward) but ingenious. For instance: “I just had sex and am about to eat nachos! It’s the greatest moment of my life!” (A line delivered by Wallace’s priceless best pal, Allan, played by Adam Driver, whose every line is worthy of a chortle.) Add an additional smattering of colorful side characters, and you have a full cast to fall in love with.

I think what impressed me the most about the writing was that Mastai never took things too far. The comedy was not gross or over the top. It reminded me of conversations I have with my family and friends and hope no one’s listening to.

It’s no secret I’ve been having a hard time lately with my depression. Yet, by the time What If was over, I was smiling—really smiling. I felt good for almost an entire day, which is saying something for me. This is a film that makes you feel good. It makes you hug the person you love a little tighter. It makes you think funnier thoughts. Oh, and it totally makes you have a crush on Harry Potter … er, Daniel Radcliffe.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, enjoy:

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I take all the credit for my husband realizing his dream. No, but really, I met this lovely girl named Kate through prison book club. She was not an inmate but a volunteer. I met her for coffee to prep for her first steps into Perryville Prison, and she mentioned she worked at an organic farm.

My husband, Jake, was totally into farming at the time. Well, I mean, he liked growing things in our backyard. I even bought him a couple classes at Desert Botanical Gardens just so he could see, for sure, what he thought of this whole planting things in the ground thing.

I asked Kate if I could bring Jake by to see Blue Sky Organic Farms, just for a visit. Jake started volunteering out there: Jake, the nuclear engineer who worked at a huge facility called Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The reason I have power to use my computer? Yeah, Palo Verde.

Jake was Navy for nine years. Then, he came to Charleston, South Carolina, met me, and um, married me. (Grin.) We moved together to Phoenix, because he got the job offer at Palo Verde, and he seemed fine, for awhile, until he found Blue Sky.

Blue Sky Organic Farms is a family-owned small business in the West Valley of Phoenix, right at the base of the beautiful White Tank Mountains. Jake loved volunteering out there. He loved his coworkers: David, Sara, RJ, Michelle, and of course, Kate—the one who opened the door in the first place.

It took several months for total discontent to set in. My husband, who had done the same thing since the age of eighteen, suddenly didn’t want to be in the nuclear business anymore. He wanted to be a farmer.

We started small: five chickens in our backyard. Veggie garden. Then, he took the leap and, while still working at Palo Verde, raised and slaughtered over a hundred pasture-raised, organic chickens. (You may recall this, via The Chicken Incident.)

The talks began soon after, the questions for me: What if I quit my job and become a farmer? What if we sell our huge, unnecessary house? Do you think your parents are going to freak out? Yadda yadda yadda … until it became real.

Sunday night was Jacob Bauer’s last night at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Our house is under contract, and we’re looking at rentals near Blue Sky. His first official day as “Farmer Jake” was Monday, and I’m thrilled that my husband has finally found his dream. He not only found it, but he is going after it.

People ask me if I’m nervous: less money, less stability, my loving husband possibly infringing on my OCD writer routine. Yes, I’m nervous. I’m a depressive introvert with an anxiety disorder who needs structure. (Wow, embarrassing when I write it out like that.)

There are times when everything is fine, when I have complete faith that God is running things and I have nothing to worry about. There are nights, though, when I can’t sleep. There are days when I feel like I can’t breathe.

Then, I remember: I’ve had the pleasure of spending most of my adult life living my dream, being a writer. Jake has been trapped in a job out of habit. How amazing that he has finally, at thirty-two, found exactly what he wants to be. He deserves this, and this brings comfort, because when I see Jake smile, I smile, too.

Will there be the occasional panic attack from his dear wifey? Yes. This is huge. This is terrifying. Still, Jake has felt all along that God was leading him. God is leading him; it’s what God does. Jake and I just have to have faith and love each other.

Whatever happens—however many meltdowns I may have—I am now a farmer’s wife, and I have never been more proud of the man I married.

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Thanks to Urban Dictionary, I can better explain steampunk. (Ah-hem.) Steampunk literature “is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan, ‘What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.’”

AH! See, I get it now! I didn’t get it until I got the chance to read my very first steampunk novel, The Clockwork Dagger by Arizona author Beth Cato. There was some further confusion when I realized a “clockwork dagger” is not actually a shiny knife covered in Rolexes. Nay, a clockwork dagger is one of the queen’s spies and assassins. But I’m really getting ahead of myself.

Octavia Leander was orphaned as a child but brought up under the tutelage of Miss Percival, who taught Octavia to be a medician, otherwise known as a “healer.” Octavia showed extreme promise. That’s because she’s a super-duper medician, devoted to the Lady: a higher power personified by a mysterious, lost Tree.

BethCato-steampunk-headshot300x450When Octavia comes of age, she is sent on a journey. She will take an airship and become the medician of a small town far away from Miss Percival and Octavia’s upbringing. Octavia is excited at the chance to save people and travel. Her excitement is heightened as she boards her airship and meets hottie-hot steward Alonzo Garrett (who has a secret). Octavia is also tailed by the overly friendly Mrs. Stout (who has some big secrets of her own).

Octavia’s trip is interrupted first by a swarm of mechanical gremlins, one of whom she befriends and names “Leaf.” (I love Leaf!) Then, Octavia’s life is threatened. It would appear someone wants her dead. Her brush with death brings her ever closer to the charming Alonzo. (Yum.) Together, they must figure out why someone would want to kill Octavia. Does it have to do with the rebels who fight against the Queen? Is a clockwork dagger perhaps aboard the ship?

Cato knows how to write, and hey, that’s saying something in a literary world oversaturated with young adult melodrama. She has created a well-rounded, detailed world. I’m especially fond of Octavia’s medician powers, as well as Octavia’s faithful, unquestioning devotion to the Lady. Oh, and Octavia’s outfit! She wears this all-white dress that soaks in stains. (I need one.)

The Clockwork Dagger is action-packed from page one, and the conflict moves along swimmingly and with ease. In fact, even the reader is conflicted. For one, who are we to trust: the rebels or the Queen’s men? Is the Lady as all-powerful and loving as Octavia might think? When is Octavia going to KISS ALONZO? See? Conflict.

This is a book about serious problems, but Cato doesn’t take herself too seriously. There are moments of laughter and romance. There’s nothing depressing about Clockwork Dagger. In fact, I left this book hungry for more. Thankfully, there’s a sequel already in the works. I highly suggest this thrilling debut—my first foray into steampunk—and a welcome addition to an ever-expanding, interesting genre.

For more about Beth, visit http://bethcato.com or just head over to Amazon and pre-order your copy of The Clockwork Dagger now.

BethCato-HCVBeth Cato writes about wild adventures on airships. She writes about mechanical gremlins and sexy (sexy) stewards with long hair. She is a Steampunk Goddess. She is also soft-spoken, beautiful, and fond of spending time with neurotic other writers, namely me.

Our husbands set Beth and I up on a blind date over a year ago, because we were both “artists.” We fell into friendship easily, because indeed, we were both “artists” with quite a lot in common (including a love for British TV). When the news came that her debut, The Clockwork Dagger, had been picked up by Harper Voyager, I was one of the first to hear … and REJOICE! I mean, seriously, if there ever was a reason for celebration!

The Clockwork Dagger will be published September 16, but because I “know people” (um, Beth), I got a look at an ARC. My full review will be posted Thursday, but in the meantime, take a gander behind the red curtain and learn more about a girl who’s about to take steampunk by storm.

An H and Five Ws with Debut Steampunk Author Beth Cato

How did you come up with the world of Clockwork Dagger?

A number of years ago, I wrote a steampunk story I was unable to sell. A while later, I was trying to figure out a new novel concept and I hit on the idea of doing Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but on an airship with a healer as the main character. I decided to use the same world from that old short story, though I had barely developed it there. The characters from that story do show up briefly in my novel as well.

Who is your favorite character in your novel?

Oh, that’s such a hard question. I have to say Mrs. Stout. She’s inspired by one of my favorite television characters of all time, Mrs. Slocombe on the British comedy Are You Being Served? Mrs. Stout is a fifty-something woman with a loud voice, loud hair, and loud clothes, but as vibrant as she is, she carries some terrible secrets. She’s so over-the-top with her mannerisms that she’s a delight to write.

ClockworkDagger_PB_Final1What is the best thing about being a writer? Worst thing?

Best thing, no question, is seeing people react emotionally to my writing. If I can make someone cry or feel angry or cheer out loud, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. The worst thing … rejection. Always rejection. Soon enough, I’ll have that in the form of harsh reader reviews, too. I fear my skin will never be thick enough to deal well with that.

Where have you felt most inspired?

I took a cruise to Alaska last summer. One morning, our ship traveled through the fjords to view a glacier. I sat by our open balcony door and wrote in my journal and read a book. We then did a day trip by bus and train from Skagway up into British Columbia. I breathed in that crisp air, as if I could store it in my lungs as long as possible. I knew I needed to write about characters going to these places. In my next book, I hope to do just that, though it will be hard for words to do justice to that wild beauty.

When (if ever) have you wanted to give up on writing?

I have an urban fantasy novel that I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. It was near and dear to my heart. The problem was, I worked on it for ages but I never had anyone critique it an an early stage. When that finally happened, the feedback was devastating. The book, quite simply, did not work. You can’t accept all critiques (some people are just plain wrong) but I knew this person was right.

I spent about three days in a horrible depression. I could barely eat or sleep. I really debated if I should completely give up, but then the next question was, “What am I going to do if I don’t write?” I couldn’t think of anything else. So, I figured, I need to fix this book. I need to prove I can write. I tore the novel apart. I rewrote it yet again. I had it critiqued by a whole group of people. Six months later, that novel is what snared my literary agent.

Why steampunk fantasy?

Adding magic and mythological creatures in with history makes things fresh. I made things a little easier on myself by setting the novel off Earth, so I didn’t need to rely on strict historical details, though a lot of World War I-era research still went into it. I had the chance to think about so many what-ifs: “What if battlefield medical wards could use healing magic alongside standard surgery? What could limit that magic? What if your enemy in trench warfare had fire magic … and airships?”

Airships in particular are a trademark of steampunk. I was obsessive about making them as realistic as possible. I based the principal airship in my book on the infamous Hindenburg, down to the room descriptions and the angles of the promenade windows. For me, those historical details make it more real and believable, even with the heavy reliance on magic. Plus, it’s just plain fun to write and to read!

Learn more about Beth at http://www.bethcato.com, and look forward to my review of The Clockwork Dagger Thursday!

So how do you write a novel in 41 days? Real answer: I have no idea. But here’s my best guess. See, I wrote a short story two months ago called “I Like Your Neck.” It was about an awkward newbie vampire named Celia who falls in love with the smell of her neighbor’s blood. I sent the story off to a magazine, and the editor wrote me back. She said the story was great, but they couldn’t use it. Furthermore, she said “I Like Your Neck” should really be a novel.

At the time, I was disgruntled, because I’d just given up on a novel, and I really didn’t want to dedicate another six months on several thousand words that would surely suck my energy and soul. I gave it some thought but didn’t take the comment seriously until I mentioned the suggestion to one of my first readers, Dan, who responded: “Well, of course it should be a novel.”

Well, shit.

I started writing “Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary” in late May, and I finished it yesterday. Nobody is as shocked as me. I’ve never written a full-length novel so quickly before, which made me wonder: what made this one so easy? And don’t say, “It’s obviously just a piece of crap,” because it isn’t. I know it’s only a first draft, but I think “Bite Somebody” is really good.

In honor of my completed manuscript, I offer you some ideas on how to write something you love—and write it fast.

1. Love your setting.
I want to live on a beach, but I don’t. I live in a desert. That said, every April, I meet my Aunt Susie on Longboat Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida. There, we lay on the beach, swim, and drink rum punches. In order to spend more time in Florida, I set “Bite Somebody” on the fictional Admiral Key and therefore got to spend 41 days living on the beach with Celia. Because of her beach habitation, I woke up every morning wanting to go back to work—in a way, go back on vacation.

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2. Know your song.
Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is the theme song to “Bite Somebody.” This might give you some idea as to what kind of vampire novel I’ve written. No one’s sultry. There are very few deep thoughts. Plus, Bob Marley is beachy, and in a book involving the beach, a hot ex-surfer, and Mary Jane, no song fit better. Every morning, before I opened Word, I listed to Bob. If I ever felt my attention waning, I listened to Bob. Bob was my anthem.

3. Love your lead.
Celia is a recovering fat kid, turned by a male vampire in a drunken stupor due to her red hair. She is obsessed with 80s movies and works at an all-night gas station called “Happy Gas.” She has no self-confidence, and her favorite film is Pretty Woman. (She dreams of being rescued by her own white knight.) Celia falls in love with the scent of her new neighbor, Ian Hasselback, and as she fights for fang control, she is shocked by his attentions. The Hot Guy has never liked her before. I wrote “Bite Somebody” as Celia’s journal, so I got to talk like her for 72,000 words. She says things no one should, and she’s painfully awkward. She’s basically me off medication. How freeing to write all the things I keep to myself! Talk about catharsis!

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4. Love your romantic interest.
Ian Hasselback: ex-champion surfer, pothead, computer nerd, and really nice guy. He’s an accurate portrayal of my husband if he’d been hit in the head a lot as a kid. I’m not saying Ian’s dumb; he’s just chill. He’s funny, too, and he finds Celia to be fascinating. Let’s be honest: I have a huge crush on Ian. I think this is key to writing romance. If you don’t love your romantic interest, why should your lead character? Although I loved playing the voice of Celia, I loved being with Ian. He’s fun to hang out with … and the sex scenes weren’t bad either.

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5. Laugh a lot.
This conclusion is directed to people writing comedy. I don’t want you to laugh a lot if you’re writing, like, Gone with the Wind, redux. The writers of Sex and the City used to sit together in one room and type. They would read each other lines, and if they couldn’t make each other choke on coffee, the scene wasn’t worth it. That’s how it went with “Bite Somebody.” If I wasn’t making myself laugh—loud, freakish guffaws—I cut the scene and started over. I’ve never written a book this funny before, and it kept me coming back, no matter my mood, because if I felt down, I’d feel up by the time I had a couple paragraphs under my belt.

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6. Know the ending.
I knew the last line before I started page one of “Bite Somebody.” This sounds dubious, I know, but it’s true. I therefore knew exactly where I had to go, and I looked forward to it with every passing page. Every page led up to a final line, and I was excited to reach that final line. I always think about Michael Douglas in Wonderboys—how he couldn’t finish his manuscript because he “couldn’t stop.” Know your beginning, middle, and end. That way, you can stop eventually and enjoy the ride to the end of the line.

“Bite Somebody” will now be scrutinized by my meanest critic: me. Once I’ve done a read-through, Celia and Ian go out to my first readers. God help us. And happy writing to you!

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